Built in 1868, the house at 915 N. Huron St. was once an elegant building. Despite its broken windows, crumbling porches and trash-strewn yard, one cannot help but marvel at some of the details in its Empire architectural style.
A mansard roof, sculpted window brackets and third-floor dormers are just a few of the aesthetic pleasures that catch the eye.
“The building has been empty for at least four years,” said Sue Burkette, who owns a nearby house. “This hurts the revitalization efforts of the Vistula Historic District.”
Burkette was concerned that the city will respond by demolishing the house. She cited on-site ownership as the best way for restoration.
“Part of the neighborhood’s problem is the large number of renters,” she said. “Investors come in, carve the buildings into multi-unit rentals, and the buildings become rundown.”
The building is owned by Zein Ismail, who says his dream of renovating the house became nightmarish.
“When I bought this house, I thought I could help improve the neighborhood,” Ismail said. “Thieves showed up after every project. They stole metal pipes, my equipment and even a marble fireplace.”
Ismail said he hopes to “get things moving” in the next four-to-eight weeks.
“I love this building, but I can only do so much,” he said. “I called the city and neighborhood groups, but no one can help me.”
Ismail said he doubts anyone can succeed with the house — which has accumulated $4499.20 in back taxes — until the neighborhood improves.
“I tried my hardest, but I have been threatened many times,” he said. “My workers don’t want to go there without protection.”
An alleged “crack house” across the street, said Ismail, is the biggest impediment to restoring the house to its former grandeur.
“It’s like a war zone at night,” he said. “Things are out of control down there.”
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